Why Aren't The Feds Fighting MRSA Harder?

Kerri Cardello Lost Her Legs To MRSA
Kerri Cardello lost both legs and suffers from damaged lungs due to a MRSA infection.

Not so long ago Kerri Cardello was a vibrant, 24/7 soccer mom.

Cardello now is struggling with the after effects of MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection she believes she got in the hospital.

MRSA damaged both of her lungs - and took both of her legs below the knees.

Cardello believes had she been tested for MRSA in the hospital, she would at least been treated sooner, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.

"If they had screening of MRSA," she said. "Maybe I wouldn't have lost my legs."

The test for MRSA, a $20 swab of the nose, is done routinely at a handful of U.S. hospitals, all of which call the testing effective. At Loyola University in Chicago, testing has reduced MRSA infections by 50 percent.

"We think it's worthwhile because it's putting our patients first," said Loyola University's Dr. Paul O'Keefe.

Three states and the Veterans Administration have also ordered MRSA screenings for high risk patients - but the federal government, specifically the Centers for Disease Control, has not.

The CDC, which declined an on camera interview, but told CBS News by phone that drug-resistant infections in hospitals have to be fought with multiple strategies.

CDC Head: Staph Is "The Cockroach Of Bacteria"
Such strategies include better hospital hand hygiene enhanced cleaning, along with testing. Testing alone, the CDC believes is "not a magic bullet,"

"And that is just the wrong mindset," said Lisa McGiffert of the Consumers Union.

Advocates at the Consumers Union say the CDC is discounting mounting evidence that aggressive hospital testing could stop MRSA at the front gate.

"If hospitals would do this kind of screening, they could significantly cut down on the spread of MRSA within their walls," McGiffert said. "This has been proven over and over."

"The science is there!" Cardello told Andrews. "It's been done. It's been done in other countries. It's been done!"

The CDC estimates at least 19,000 Americans died last year because of MRSA, but 94,000 get sick - most of them stricken in the hospital, stricken by a preventable disease.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.